Cordon tightened around Abus

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine military said Saturday it was tightening its cordon around Muslim extremists holding two Red Cross workers hostage, even during the Easter holidays.

“There will be no let up in further constricting the kidnappers’ positions to reduce their freedom of movement especially this Lenten Season,” a military statement said.

The kidnappers holding Swiss national Andreas Notter and Italian Eugenio Vagni will be looking for security forces to take a “holiday break” from surrounding their hideout on the southern island of Jolo, the statement said.

The military also warned that the Abu Sayyaf extremists who kidnapped the two International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) workers were mainly after money and were deliberately trying to wear down the hostages’ families and supporters to make them pay ransom.

“Ultimately, it is money that terrorists are after. In order for terrorists to cow their victims and relatives into virtual submission… terrorists toy with emotion, sow fear and panic,” the statement said.

Abu Sayyaf’s ranks grow every time they kidnap someone, proving people join the group in the hope of getting some of the ransom money, it added.

The kidnappers have publicly denied seeking a ransom but press reports say they are secretly contacting the families of their captives asking for money.

The two Red Cross workers and a Filipina co-worker were abducted while on a humanitarian mission to Jolo on January 15.

The Filipina, Mary Jean Lacaba, was released on April 2 but the group is still holding the other two hostages captive and has warned it could behead one of them unless government forces pull back from around its hideout.

In a related development, police and military forces raided a house on Jolo island on Friday and found a cache of explosive materials.

The military said the explosives were intended to be used to cause disorder and distract security forces from their operations against the kidnappers.

The Abu Sayyaf group has been blamed for the worst terror attacks in Philippine history and has been linked by intelligence agencies to the Al-Qaeda network of Osama bin Laden.

Abu Sayyaf extrenists have kidnapped several other westerners over the past decade, many of whom, according to the Philippine military, were ransomed off for millions of dollars.

They also murdered an American hostage, Guillermo Sobero, in 2001. A second American, Christian missionary Martin Burnham, was killed in a military attack the following year that led to the rescue of his wife Gracia.

Agence France-Presse

Published in: on April 11, 2009 at 3:23 pm  Comments Off on Cordon tightened around Abus  
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